When former Chairman Norman Bay announced he was leaving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) before the end of his term, alarm bells went off at natural gas pipeline companies across the United States, including TransCanada.
What could get done with only two of five commissioners? The federal rules require FERC to have a quorum of at least three commissioners “for the transaction of business.”
“At the staff level, there’s no big change,” said Robert Jackson, certificates manager at TransCanada. “Before any of this happened, the Commission issued an order that delegated authority to division directors to make decisions and issue letter orders.”
Jackson offered Environmental Impact Statements as an example of the kind of necessary work that can proceed without a quorum.
“These are career FERC staff. From the bottom all the way up to the division directors, work is still going on.”
As it turns out, both the Leach XPress and Rayne XPress projects came in under the wire and received their certificate orders. Having the certificates in hand means these projects can realistically meet their November 1, 2017, in-service dates.
“For everything we’re doing right now, (FERC has the ability) to process,” said Sorana Linder, director, regulated services, TransCanada U.S. gas pipelines.
“Wheels continue to churn at the Commission, but there are just so many projects pending at once,” Linder adds. “While FERC staff is diligently working to keep up, there continue to be delays.”
While TransCanada's Leach and Rayne XPress projects march ahead, sooner or later a fully functioning FERC will be needed.
“Projects like these are critical to natural gas producers and the industry as a whole as they create new capacity to move trapped shale gas to high-value markets,” said TransCanada Senior Vice President for U.S. Natural Gas Pipelines Stan Chapman.